It’s not uncommon for folks to ignore minor health complaints. After all, who wants to rush off to the doctor for every minor cough, pain or tummy ache?
But ignoring a chronic symptom, no matter how subtle it is, could turn out to be a dangerous mistake. Because many cancer symptoms masquerade as minor health problems, and disregarding them could mean you end up missing an important red flag.
Paying attention to your body, and following your gut, may help you spot problem long before your doctor or a test picks it up. And that could mean catching a cancer early, and getting ahead of it before lasting damage is done.
Beware of these overlooked cancer symptoms
Following are nine often overlooked cancer symptoms you shouldn’t ignore:
#1: General weakness or fatigue
It’s perfectly normal to feel a little tired now and then. Not getting enough shuteye or over-committing yourself from time to time can tucker anyone out. But if there’s no clear cause for your exhaustion, or if it’s dragging on for a long time, it could be a warning sign. Especially if the fatigue is accompanied by one or more of the other cancer symptoms in this list.
#2: Unexpected weight loss
If you aren’t trying to lose weight, but suddenly shed 10 or more pounds it could be a red flag. Unplanned weight loss often accompanies digestion related cancers including cancers of the esophagus, pancreas, stomach and colon. Unexpected weight loss can also be seen with cancers that have spread to your liver.
#3: Sores that just don’t seem to heal
Skin cancers often appear like a sore that won’t scab over and heal, or that bleeds easily. A sore that won’t heal in the mouth could be a symptom of an oral cancer, especially if you chew tobacco or are a smoker.
#4: Changes in your skin or nails
If you have a mole, freckle or wart that suddenly changes size, shape or color it could be a sign of skin cancer or melanoma. Darkening skin, red skin, or yellow skin and eyes (jaundice) are linked to certain cancers, and should always be looked at by a doctor.
White patches or spots inside your mouth or on your tongue can sometimes be an early warning sign of an oral cancer. New brown or black streaks or dots under your fingernails is sometimes connected to skin cancer. And unusually pale or white nails could be a very early sign of liver cancer.
#5: Breast or nipple changes
If your breast suddenly feels sore and is swollen and red it could be a sign of inflammatory breast cancer. Red or thickened skin on your breast could be a warning sign for breast cancer. And a nipple that suddenly changes shape, flattens out, turns sideways, inverts or has a discharge could also be a signal of breast cancer as well.
#6: Nagging cough or chronic hoarseness
If you have a nagging cough that just won’t seem to go away don’t ignore it, it could be connected to lung cancer. And a hoarse or gravelly voice could be caused by thyroid cancer or cancer of the larynx.
#7: Feeling bloated and too full
Women with ovarian cancer often report having felt overfull and bloated even when they hadn’t been eating before they were diagnosed. If you you aren’t interested in eating, and feel full even when you skip a meal, go get checked out.
#8: Trouble swallowing with or without indigestion
Esophageal, throat, stomach or lung cancers can all cause you to suddenly have trouble swallowing. Chronic indigestion can occur also. If you find yourself choking on food, or having trouble getting it down, make an appointment to see your doctor.
#9: Trouble catching your breath or wheezing
Lung cancer can trigger shortness of breath and wheezing. If a quick walk to the mailbox or around the house makes you feel winded it’s a good idea to go checked out.
If you have one or more of these symptoms don’t panic. They can be useful tools for catching a cancer in its earliest stages. But having one (or more) doesn’t mean you definitely have cancer. It simply means you should make an appointment to discuss it with your doctor.
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